Pulp Fiction: A Conservator's Detective Work

This painting is from a series of unique pulp art pieces brought to The Center. The conservator initially observed that the quality of the paint layer was inconsistent throughout the painting surface, indicating previous restoration. For example, the paint on the female figure was much more yellow and thickly applied than on the rest of the painting. Examination under UV light confirmed the conservator’s hypothesis of heavy overpainting; large expanses of previous overpaint were in fact present, including all of the woman’s body, face, hair, and the man’s jacket.

The paint layer was also coated with a thick layer of discolored natural resin varnish and a moderate grime layer, and there were indications that a previous partial cleaning had abraded approximately 40% of the surface. The canvas exhibited several undulations overall, particularly in the upper left quadrant. The moderately applied paint layer contained numerous sigmoid impact cracks and mechanical cracks, some of which were insecure.

(Above) Example of craquelure from the reverse.

(Above) Example of craquelure from the reverse.

The discolored varnish layer was removed to the extent safely possible with appropriate solvents, followed by the removal of previous repaint.

(Above) During treatment detail: Removal of overpaint and varnish removal.

(Above) During treatment detail: Removal of overpaint and varnish removal.

(Above) During treatment detail

(Above) During treatment detail

The canvas deformations were flattened using a variety of techniques, and cracks were locally secured using conservation adhesives. The missing stretcher keys were replaced so that the canvas could be properly tensioned. An isolating layer of varnish was applied to protect the original paint layer. Inpainting was then carried out to integrate losses on the woman using remnants of the original paint discovered under the layers of repaint. A final coat of varnish was applied to the newly inpainted areas to integrate surface gloss. The treatment of this painting serves as an example of the conservator’s responsibility to return the artwork to a state more consistent with the artist’s original intent.

(Above) Before

(Above) Before

 and After

 and After

Justin Gilman

The business end of Twin. In charge of landing interesting new projects, making clients happy, and coffee. A maker of beautiful music and master of oral sound effects. A secret Jim Henson nerd. Will always find ways of working smarter. Will never participate in karaoke.

CONTACT US
312.944.5401